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Poor Relations by George Goodwin Kilburne (Walker Art Gallery)

The BLFC Then and Now

Founded in 1982 at San Jose State University in California, the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest challenges entrants to compose opening sentences to the worst of all possible novels. 

The contest (hereafter referred to as the BLFC) was the misbegotten brainchild of Professor Scott Rice. Sentenced to write a seminar paper on a minor Victorian novelist, he chose the man with the funny hyphenated name, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton. Best known for The Last Days of Pompeii, his novel Paul Clifford began with the famous opener that has been plagiarized repeatedly by the cartoon beagle, Snoopy.

The Panel of Undistinguished Judges sorting the thousands of entries received by post card, circa 1984. 

The Panel of Undistinguished Judges

Later, Rice was to discover that the line had been around for donkey’s years before Lytton decided to have fun with it but the damage had been done. The BLFC had calumniated Lytton’s memory and rendered his name synonymous with bad writing, an author more widely read in his time than Charles Dickens.

Throughout the years the BLFC has been covered by all the major American television networks, and for decades the winners continued to be announced by both national and international media. 

Since retiring in 2014 the contest continues to be a labor of love for Dr. Rice and his daughter, EJ (a recovering perfectionist who maintains the website abominably in her spare time).

Contact Us

To find contest rules and enter your own clever claptrap, see Rules & Submissions.

For general contest queries you'll find Scott here when he hasn't forgotten to check his email. If you've found another blasted typo or have other questions, you'll find EJ here


Scott and EJ in The Before Times

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